Some North Carolina COVID-19 restrictions will be scaled back starting Friday

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Gov. Roy Cooper signed an executive order Wednesday that eases more COVID-19 restrictions later this week.

The order, which takes effect at 5 p.m. Friday, allows North Carolinians to venture outdoors without masks. It also increases mass gathering capacity limits. The number of people who may gather indoors will increase from 50 to 100. The number of people who may gather outdoors will increase from 100 to 200.

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) still recommends masks be worn in crowded areas and places where social distancing is difficult.

Wednesday’s executive order expires June 1. Cooper and NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen said last week they would lift more restrictions in June if two-thirds of North Carolina adults were vaccinated against COVID-19.

The state has administered more than 7 million vaccine doses. About 48.7% of adults are partially vaccinated, and 39.2% have been fully vaccinated.

“Right now, about half of our adults are partially vaccinated and almost 40% are fully vaccinated,” Cooper said. “This is great progress. But to get to two-thirds, we need everybody to work on this.”

Masks still must be worn indoors, even while social distancing, and businesses still must adhere to occupancy limits.

The order divides businesses into three categories for occupancy restrictions.

Museums, aquariums, tattoo parlors, salons, retail stores and personal care and grooming businesses will be allowed to return to 100% occupancy indoors and outdoors, with social distancing.

Restaurants, breweries, wineries, distilleries, recreation facilities, gyms, fitness centers, pools and amusement parks can return to 100% capacity outdoors and 75% indoors. Movie theaters and gaming facilities may operate at 75% capacity outdoors.

Bars, reception halls, conference rooms, lounges, night clubs, auditoriums, arenas and live performance venues must operate indoors and outdoors at 50% capacity.

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